A third of mini stor­ages po­ten­tial fire haz­ards

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By DARA WANG in Hong Kong dara@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

About a third of Hong Kong’s mini-stor­age out­lets pose po­ten­tial fire haz­ards, the govern­ment told the public on Thurs­day. This was af­ter a city­wide in­ter-de­part­men­tal safety in­spec­tion fol­low­ing the deadly blaze in a mini-stor­age fa­cil­ity in East Kowloon in June.

Among 756 mini-stor­age fa­cil­i­ties out of 885 iden­ti­fied in the city, 257 were found with vi­o­la­tions in­clud­ing sub­stan­dard pas­sage­ways be­tween blocks of stor­age cu­bi­cles, the heights of each room, blocked win­dows and in­suf­fi­cient fire fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­de­part­men­tal press brief­ing. All have been told to meet the re­quired safety stan­dards.

Af­ter the two-month in­spec­tion, some 1,200 warn­ings were is­sued to mini-stor­age op­er­a­tors to re­con­fig­ure cu­bi­cles. Fifty of these have been com­plied with. Ac­cord­ing to Ter­rance Tsang Wing-hung, deputy chief fire of­fi­cer (fire safety), some busi­nesses had to sus­pend op­er­a­tions to meet these stan­dards.

The in­spec­tion fol­lows the deadly fire in Ngau Tau Kok, which burned for more than 108 hours — one of the long­est in Hong Kong his­tory. Sadly, it claimed two fire­fight­ers’ lives. More than 200 locked stor­age cu­bi­cles made it dif­fi­cult for the fire­men get­ting to the af­fected floors. Many were found to con­tain in­flammable and pos­si­bly toxic ma­te­ri­als in­side.

So far, no reg­u­la­tions specif­i­cally on mini-stor­age reg­is­tra­tion have been de­vel­oped in Hong Kong. Rel­e­vant fa­cil­i­ties are su­per­vised un­der var­i­ous or­di­nances on fire safety and build­ing struc­tures.

For in­stance, the Fire Ser­vices Or­di­nance stip­u­lates the dis­tance be­tween cu­bi­cle blocks must not be shorter than 2.4 me­ters. This is in or­der to en­able emer­gency evac­u­a­tions. The height of a cu­bi­cle must not be higher than 2.35 me­ters, which gives space for ven­ti­la­tion above it. The stor­age area of a sin­gle unit must not be big­ger than 50 square me­ters.

The Lands Depart­ment found 193 units in breach of the use pre­scribed in land lease pro­vi­sions. It urged own­ers to change the land use to meet the stip­u­la­tions within 28 days, said Pa­trick Le­ung Yun-hing, prin­ci­pal land ex­ec­u­tive (land con­trol and lease en­force­ment) of the depart­ment.

The govern­ment will con­sider in­tro­duc­ing new reg­u­la­tions to im­prove fire safety stan­dards in old in­dus­trial build­ings and to en­hance the reg­u­la­tion of mini-stor­age fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord- ing to the press brief­ing.

Law­mak­ers sup­ported the govern­ment’s call. Leg­is­la­tor Aron Kwok Wai-ke­ung said it is nec­es­sary to in­tro­duce li­cens­ing re­quire­ments on mini-stor­age out­lets.

The Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil needs to con­duct a re­view of the cur­rent Fire Ser­vices Or­di­nance and stip­u­la­tion re­gard­ing use of in­dus­trial build­ing units soon, said Kwok.

Kwok also urged the govern­ment to set up a spe­cial com­mit­tee to in­spect the city’s min­is­tor­age fa­cil­i­ties reg­u­larly. This is to en­sure they meet the new safety re­quire­ments.

How­ever, in­dus­try lead­ers voiced con­cerns. In a writ­ten re­sponse to the govern­ment’s in­spec­tions, Hong Kong Mini Stor­ages As­so­ci­a­tion said the in­dus­try found the govern­ment’s in­struc­tions “hard to im­ple­ment in a short pe­riod of time”. De­spite this, they have al­ready taken sev­eral mea­sures in strict ac­cor­dance with them. Most op­er­a­tors would find it hard to sur­vive un­der the govern­ment in­struc­tions, the as­so­ci­a­tion pre­dicted.

The as­so­ci­a­tion also vowed to talk with the govern­ment about vi­able ap­proaches to re­con­fig­ure mini-stor­age fa­cil­i­tates to meet these safety stan­dards. In mid-Jan­uary, it will in­form the public about the up­grad­ing of mini-stor­age fa­cil­i­ties.

ED­MOND TANG / CHINA DAILY

Thick smoke spews out from Amoy­can In­dus­trial Cen­tre in the deadly Ngau Tau Kok blaze, which lasted 108 hours be­fore be­ing put out in Hong Kong, on June 23.

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